Following a greyshirt year, Unga's wait was over and the former Thunderbird star got his first taste of Division I football before he felt something strange physically. After being told he would have to have surgery, Unga received a blessing from his father and soon after the family went out and got a second opinion. To his surprise and with much gratitude, Harvey Unga learned from the doctors that he would not need to have surgery.
Fast forwarding to spring practice in 2007, Unga is still in the healing mode, although he is allowed to be involved in every aspect of the current spring exercises. However, he has yet to be cleared for full contact scrimmages when that part of spring camp comes around.
"Everything is going good and I've been going for the past few days," said Unga. "I just barely spoke to Coach Reynolds about it. He's still kind of iffy about it and just said, ‘Well, you just gotta ask yourself if you're alright and see how you feel. Then let [Head Athletic Trainer] Kevin [Morris] know and see what he has to say in about this.' Coach Reynolds just wants to talk to the big guy [Coach Mendenhall] and just do thuds [light hitting scrimmages] the whole way, so that way we can still learn without getting hurt. Coach Reynolds' biggest concern was getting me up to speed mentally so I don't make any mistakes, and that I'm clean and clear on all the plays so I'm ready to go."
At this point in time, Unga is going through the offensive repetitions with the first and second team units. With the current schedule of spring practice involving technique drills, light scrimmages and skeli drills, Unga has been given the green light to participate to keep him involved with learning and developing until the day comes when he is cleared for full practice contact.
"Yeah that's basically it," Unga said. "I'm able to go through everything as long as I don't get hit. The coaches are debating if I should go through everything come Thursday. Coach Reynolds wants me to go through everything at the start of practice like skeli and all the prep stuff, but when it comes to team contact that's when he and Kevin will later decide where I'm going to be."
At this point in time Unga's status is one of caution by the coaches, and although the competitive side of him urges him to get into the action and compete at the highest level, the reasonable side of him understands why coaches are being so cautious.
"This is pretty much it and I'm just tired of waiting," said Unga. "At the same time I know where the coaches are coming from over this period of healing. I know what the coaches are trying to do and they're looking out for me. I just want to get in there and play, but it would be a rookie mistake to think you're okay and push it, and then the next thing you know you're hurt again and your career is done. It's been humbling because it's been a long, hard process, but in the end it will be worth it. If I have to wait then I have to wait, so I understand that concept of where the coaches are coming from, but if I'm cleared to go then I'll go and play to the best of my ability."
In scouting out Unga's current performances within the skeli and light team scrimmages, he looks very good. Unga runs hard, cuts well and catches footballs out of the backfield. He caught a swing pass from Max Hall last Monday and scampered his way past defenders and into the end zone.
"I feel good but I do feel a step slow out there sometimes," Unga said. "Coach Reynolds told me that I kind of rush into the options [offensive play position] too much when [I run my] option routes. Before last year that was one thing I noticed…I was going as fast as possible, but at the same time I would still shake and get to that break point really fast. This year my mentality is a little different."
After suffering a similar injury that ended the career for former NFL star Bo Jackson, BYU coaches want to make sure Unga is able to overcome the mental side of his injury by bringing him along slowly so he can play with full capability once fully cleared. BYU's coaches are wise enough to understand both sides of the issues in his development.
"I keep talking myself down by thinking if I don't go faster than I am then they're going to catch me," Unga said. "I just need to have more confidence in what I'm doing. [Monday] I was dying with those option routes but [Tuesday] I felt more fluid, caught every pass out there, made some good cuts and will just keep working on it."